Democrats, Poverty and Rich Bashing


Witnessing the scramble among Democratic presidential hopefuls to appeal to voters in the various states about to have primaries is not a pleasant experience. What has come to be the main theme of these candidates is the refrain that whoever isn't rich, whoever has had a brush with poverty at anytime in his or her life, must want and is fully entitled to have governments engage in massive, relentless wealth redistribution. This is a pitiful and quite disgusting message to put out in America, the country to which the poor of the world used to -- and often still -- flock precisely to escape their poverty through hard work, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity.

One can only hope that even those who are poor will repudiate such condescension from the politicians who think their job description is first and foremost to take from Peter and hand it over to Paul. One can only hope that voters will eventually realize that the promises made to them by Gephardt, Dean, Edwards, Lieberman and the rest, pertaining to how they will be Santa Claus to everyone based on a vigorous tax and spend policy, should be rejected. Perhaps the voters will realize that such wealth redistribution is precisely what will ultimately lead to widespread impoverishment, not enrichment, which is the real goal of most people who are poor.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that no wealth is created when you do what nearly all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls want to do, namely, simply reshuffle existing wealth, from those who have it (either from having earned or from having lucked into it), to those who lack it. Wealth transfers like that do not create anything at all. What they do produce is resentment and attitudes of class warfare, instead of a sense of achievement and overall prosperity. That the Democratic candidates actually believe that what Americans who lack wealth want is to have such wealth be taken at gun point from those who have it and hand it over to them -- though not before a sizable bureaucracy skims off a goodly portion of it -- testifies to how little they think of the people whose votes they desire.

Of course, those very voters may not have sufficient self-respect and self-confidence to rebuff these candidates and deny them their votes. Many of the poor and even not so poor have accepted the phony idea that to get rich requires stealing from those who have more than they do. Many Americans have indeed reverted to a zero-sum idea of economic progress, one that ruled the world prior to the emergence of capitalism. This view had tied all wealth accumulation to conquest. Leaders of countries relied not on vigorous production, free trade, and commerce so as to generate wealth but on invasion, murder, and robbery. It was only after the likes of the Scottish economic genius Adam Smith -- the author of The Wealth of Nations, taught the world that wealth comes from the freedom to work and trade, not from the coercive policies conquest and robbery -- that prosperity began to reach nearly everyone in Western societies.

Now the Democrats and their reactionary academic gurus are peddling the notion that what will make people rich is, once again, raiding the wealth of those who are already rich. More taxation, they scream, not more production and free trade. These pathetic people are counting on voters to be motivated not from an honest desire to become prosperous -- one that would incline a person to work harder, to invest wisely, and to save prudently. No, they hope that voters are motivated from rank envy, the desire to bring down those who have it better than they do. And to fuel this envy good and hard, these vile politicians are preaching class warfare and zero-sum political economy.

Perhaps a great many Americans have in fact become so corrupt in their hearts and minds that they will reward these politicians with their support. Perhaps the spirit of American capitalism, consisting mainly of the intention to produce and compete for customers has been eclipsed by such reactionary economic hogwash. If that is so, the Democrats who try to appeal to such obsolete ideas about political economy will become victorious.

Sadly, there is no serious opposition to their vile pitch from Republicans. The GOP today is openly intent on out-promising the Democrats and on winning by an appeal to a no less disgusting human motive, namely, imperial political conquest. So, we aren't likely to see any development in the next few years that will really bring serious prosperity to the poor or anyone else. Still, it is worth noting just how low politicians are when they want to achieve power. They do not hesitate in the slightest about going to the people and counting on their ignorance and worst attitude.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.